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A Club of Their OwnJewish Humorists and the Contemporary World$
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Eli Lederhendler and Gabriel N. Finder

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190646127

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190646127.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 September 2021

And Hannah Laughed

And Hannah Laughed

The Role of Irony in Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem

(p.132) And Hannah Laughed
A Club of Their Own

Kerstin Steitz

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes Hannah Arendt’s use of irony and humor in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), a compilation of her serialized account of the Adolf Eichmann trial published in The New Yorker in 1962. Eichmann, the former head of the Gestapo’s section for Jewish affairs, was tried in Jerusalem for being a key perpetrator in the murder of six million Jews. Arendt’s critics viewed the humorous aspects and intonations of her report as lacking in the propriety and gravity expected from material dealing with the Holocaust. However, they failed to realize that Arendt’s irony and humor were part of her political rhetoric, which was intentionally provocative and had serious goals in mind. Her tendentious jokes about Eichmann are anything but innocent entertainment; they sought to reveal Eichmann as the personification of the “banality of evil,” which, while deviating from the traditional understanding of evil as having demonic depth, is nonetheless equally dangerous. The many anecdotes she provides about Eichmann’s inconsistent and even absurd utterances during his trial acquaint readers with his character and way of thinking, and thus constitute the groundwork for judging his degree of culpability for the crimes for which he was accused and ultimately convicted.

Keywords:   Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, Holocaust, Jews, Jewish humor, banality of evil

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